Jerkbait vs Crankbait- Different Kinds, Body Type, Retrieval Depth and Underwater Movements

Crankbait and jerkbait are two very popular choices of fishing lures among anglers, especially for catching bass. The popularity is probably influenced by its sheer convenience that you don’t need an additional tackle to catch fish.

People often get confused wondering if they’re the same because of the somewhat similar working fashion. And that’s perfectly understandable, both jerkbait and crankbait mimic as the forage fish in order to get the attention of predatory fish.

But the question is, are they actually the same? That’s what I’ll be talking about today.

In this article, we’re going to know about jerkbaits and crankbaits in detail along with where and when to use which bait. In the FAQ section, I’ll be answering some commonly asked questions about them as well.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

What is Jerkbait?


The shape of jerkbaits will remind you of minnow.

They tend to have a long, slender body. It’s intentionally meant to be aerodynamic, as that ensures it will be cast quite far into the water but not travelling too deep below the surface level at the same time. The former can be advantageous when you’re trying to catch something wary and you need to have some distance in between.

It is designed to mimic the movements of an injured fish by jerking, which is what inspired the name. However, jerkbaits of course won’t be doing that on their own, the angler has to produce the motions. You have to keep jerking and twitching your fishing rod, that’ll do the trick.

These movements lead the predatory fish to believe that it’s an easy prey and hence lures that into biting. 

The performance of jerkbaits can be altered using bills (also known as lips), which have a strong effect on the wiggle action. They control the diving depth of the bait as well. For example, a long bill will result in a comparatively higher diving depth, so you can choose the size that suits  your purpose the best.

Generally, jerkbaits come with three treble hooks and have a length of 3-5 inches.

Different Kinds of Jerkbait

Hard jerkbaits

Hard jerkbaits are basically long and slender lures that have a lip. They come with two-three treble hooks and generally have a one-piece design, not jointed.

There are three different subcategories hard jerkbait can be divided into: floating, sinking and suspending. The names are pretty much self-explanatory, but allow me to tell you about them in detail for information’s sake anyway.

Floating jerkbaits will be floating on the water unless you submerge them by force. They’re useful for fishing near the surface.

Sinking jerkbaits will be submerging itself in water as soon as it’s cast. But here’s the catch (no pun intended!), the lure stops sinking as soon as you jerk it using the fishing rod. So, you can wait until it’s reached your desired depth and then keep it there.

Suspending jerkbaits are the most convenient type which are also very common at fishing gear shops. They’re designed in a way that it will always remain in the same spot where you’ve cast it out, unless any kind of external force is exerted on it. Just like sinking jerkbaits, you can also adjust the depth of a suspending jerkbait by jerking the fishing rod.

soft jerkbaits

Soft jerkbaits are commonly known as Flukes. The flexibility of their body offers a remarkable versatility, so they can be rigged in a couple of different ways. For example, you can rig them on a jig head or even use them weightless. Because of their physique, soft jerkbaits tend to feature a slow diving rate.

What is Crankbait?


Crankbaits are designed to mimic the actions of crayfish or any other kind of forage fish. Generally, they’re made of hard plastic. In some cases, they’re carved from balsa wood that helps them copy the natural movements of a fish better. The plastic ones tend to be more durable, as they’re designed to be used in deeper water.

Crankbaits come in different sizes and with different lips to choose from, just like jerkbaits. However, unlike their counterpart, crankbaits have a round and comparatively shorter body.

Lipless crankbaits are also available, which are more suitable in shallow diving depth. That being said, anglers typically use crankbaits for deep water, where a wide and extended lip helps greatly. It’s considered a great choice for bass fishing, especially largemouth bass.

When it comes to versatility, crankbaits surely steal the show. There are so many variations of crankbaits available that no matter what your purpose is, there will be at least one type of crankbait that’d meet your criteria. Some crankbaits can even be used in dirty water and there are floatable versions as well, so you get the point.

The casting and retrieval process is as simple as it gets, though there is a small catch with the retrieval. Lipless crankbait have a tendency of sinking, making  the retrieval process take longer. However, that won’t be a problem with the lipped ones.

Different Kinds of Crankbaits

In terms of diving depth, crankbaits can be classified into three categories: shallow diving crankbaits, medium diving crankbaits and deep diving crankbaits.

Shallow diving crankbaits

Shallow divers usually have a smaller lip along with additional buoyancy. They work great as long as the water isn’t any more deep than five feet. Small rocks and docks are some possible places where shallow diving crankbaits can be used.

They’re also referred to as square bills.

Medium diving crankbaits

Medium divers would be the perfect choice if the depth is higher than five feet but lower than ten feet. Understandably, they have a comparatively longer bill and a bit more on the heavier side.

Deep diving crankbaits

In Summer, most fish choose to migrate to significantly lower depths to avoid the heat of sun rays. That is when large bill crankbait come useful, which allow you to reach greater depths. Do note that deep divers require you to swing the crankbait rod hard in order to give the bait the momentum it needs to crash into the water.

Body Type: Crankbait vs Jerkbait

As we’ve seen already, jerkbaits and crankbaits have different body shapes. Let’s now do a side by side comparison.

The advantages the slender body of jerkbaits offers:

  • There can be up to three treble hooks.
  • The wobbling body gives predatory fish the impression that it’s injured and hence encourages them to bite.

What does the comparatively fatter and shorter design of crankbaits pack?

  • Predatory fish find it a decently sized snack because of the round shape.
  • Shorter body allows more aggressive swimming action.
  • Various kinds of lip combinations are available.

Keeping the advantages of each body shape in mind will help you understand which one you need the best.

body type-jerkbait vs crankbait

Retrieval Depth: Jerkbait vs. Crankbait

As a lot of lip variations are available for crankbaits, no matter what depth you’re aiming for – you’ll find the right lip size for it. Whether it’s shallow, medium or deep waters, you’re covered by the plethora of choices.

Contrastingly, jerkbaits typically come with shorter bills that have a length of half inch or less. So, they’re only good for shallow water bodies like creeks.

So, depending on what depth of water you would be fishing in, you need to choose from either of them.

Underwater Movement: Crankbait vs Jerkbait

When you’re using crankbaits, all you have to do is to cast it into the water and let it sink down on its own. That’s it, you don’t need to apply any force on the fishing line. It will attract fish pretending to be a delicious snack.

However, it’s a totally different ball game with jerkbait. As it needs to lure other fish by pretending to be an injured, struggling fish, you’ll be having to jerk and twitch the fishing rod constantly so the jerkbait on the other end doesn’t stop wobbling.

Depending on what would catch the attention of the kind of fish you want to catch the most, it’s either jerkbait or crankbait. The great difference in underwater action makes it virtually impossible for them to be used interchangeably, at least in terms of underwater movement.

In hotter seasons like summer and fall, fish tend to shift towards the bottom of the water body where the water temperature is lower. Crankbait’s extensive deep diving ability makes it perfect for such seasons, allowing you to catch bass even on the hottest summer days.

When and where should you use which?

Using the right bait at the right time can turn the odds in your favor dramatically.

So far, we’ve learnt about the technical differences between jerkbait and crankbait from which you’ll know which kind of fish requires which of them. But there are two more very important deciding factors to it: water type and weather condition.

I’d say, these two are the main determinants that dictate whether jerkbait or crankbait would be more apt in that particular situation.

Let’s take a look.

Jerkbait – best for clear, open & shallow water and colder seasons

By now, you should be well acquainted with how jerkbaits attract other fish.

The way they work – mimicking the movements of a dying fish – requires other fish to actually be able to see them. Obviously, that makes them only usable in clear and shallow waters where visibility isn’t an issue.

Along with that, you also need to keep in mind that they don’t sink while travelling, making the movement pattern strictly horizontal. So, it should only be cast into open water that has no weed or any such obstacles.

Jerkbaits perform the best during the winter, credit going entirely to the way they operate. In colder seasons, the metabolism of fish starts slowing down and quite a lot of smaller types struggle to survive. The predators tend to be on the lookout for such weak fish – and jerkbaits enter into the situation as the perfect decoy.

Crankbait – best for all situations, including murky, deep waters and summer

As we’ve discussed already, with crankbait you get the freedom of fishing in whatever water depth you want as long as you choose the right bill size. Thanks to that, nothing is going to stop you from fishing at those water bodies where fish can only be found at the bottom.

Unlike jerkbait, crankbait attracts other fish by creating vibrations and quick movements. It’s best if the water body has plenty of boulders and logs down there, as the crankbait bumping into them would produce some vibrations. Crankbait works just as good in murky waters because as you can guess already, the predators don’t necessarily have to see it – they can feel the vibrations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

First of all, they look nothing alike. Generally, jerkbaits have a long, slender body whereas crankbaits have a shorter, wider shape. The former have up to three treble hooks whereas the latter can only have two treble hooks.

The fishing action also varies, by quite a bit. As the name hints, fishing with them involves a lot of jerking or twitching the jerkbait rod. On the contrary, crankbaits are usually cast along or trolled and then retrieved in a more stable manner.

While both jerkbaits and crankbaits come with bills (lips), there are significantly more options available for crankbaits. That makes a lot more flexibility with the fishing action possible for crankbaits. Not to mention, the shorter body of crankbaits also allows a more aggressive swimming action than jerkbaits.

It depends on some factors. But generally speaking, the answer is no.

Between crankbait and jerkbait, there isn’t any superior type. Both are great in their own field. That being said, they do come with their own set of pros and cons. So, you need to check which of them aligns with your purpose the most.

For example, if you would be fishing in clear and shallow waters, jerkbaits would be a better option. Because fish have to be able to see the jerkbait so it can lure them into biting. Due to the same reason, jerkbaits would be a bad idea for murky waters.

End of the day, it all comes down to what and where you fish. Some anglers even combine and use both, should the situation require so.

Yes, you very much can. As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty old technique that still works effectively.

Although one thing you should keep in mind is this method requires a lot of physical effort. You have to be putting the action in the lure the whole time. And when a big fish actually hits the bait, you have to hold on tightly.

As experienced fishermen would agree with me, sometimes it would feel like your arm is going to break while you fight against the fish.

All that aside, there’s no doubt that trolling jerkbaits is a pretty exciting experience. If you don’t mind putting in the extra work, do make sure to give it a shot. A floating crankbait can be used for trolling too.

Final Words

Whew, that was quite comprehensive, wasn’t it? Take a breather, you’ve earned it.

In the article, we’ve first discussed the technical aspects of jerkbaits and crankbaits. Using that as a reference guide, you’d be able to determine yourself which one of them would be the most appropriate for your purpose.

Then, we looked at the key differences along with when and where you should use which. Lastly, I’ve answered some commonly asked questions in the FAQ section which should clear up all your confusion.

I hope this article helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of both kinds of lures. I’d strongly recommend you to have both the crankbaits and jerkbaits at your disposal, so you can always be prepared no matter where, when or what you’re going to fish.

Happy Fishing! 

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